Audi Sees a ‘Bit of Light’ at End of Tunnel in China, CEO Says

  • Good showroom traffic in August after market turbulence
  • Total auto sales in China rise 0.6 percent after 17-month low

Audi, the biggest seller of luxury cars in China, said the market is showing signs of recovery after more customers visited its showrooms there in August.

Audi is confident that the country’s growing middle class will ensure its car market keeps growing in the mid- to long-term, Chief Executive Officer Rupert Stadler said at the Hamburg business journalists’ club late Tuesday.

The cautiously optimistic comments from the world’s second-biggest luxury-car maker come as discounts and other incentives helped prop up sales in China in August. Deliveries increased 0.6 percent, a positive contrast after a stock market rout sent sales plunging to a 17-month low in July, according to the China Passenger Car Association.

“There was a bit of light at the end of the tunnel in August,” Stadler said on Tuesday. “But one swallow doesn’t make a summer. That’s why my forecast will remain cautious.”

Though more customers are shopping, and attractive financing has helped push purchases, discounts on cars continued to rise in August, according to a report on Wednesday from analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein.

Volkswagen AG’s Audi is particularly exposed to the slowdown in China, the luxury unit’s biggest sales region. In July, Audi abandoned a target to sell 600,000 cars there this year, which would have represented a 3.6 percent increase.

Other carmakers including BMW AG, the global luxury-market leader, have also cut prices and adjusted production. The slowdown happened “much faster than we expected,” BMW Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner said last week.

“We should wait out the undulation in China,” Audi’s Stadler said. “We will see growth again.”